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Thinking of starting my own studio. Talk me out of it!

Discussion in 'Studio Lounge' started by sargentpilcher, Feb 28, 2010.

  1. Hello everybody, thank you ahead of time for your input here.

    My love has always been music. I started playing bass guitar when I was about 13, and have since then expanded my horizons and collected a respectable amount of gear through the years (Not NEARLY as much as many of you!), enough in my mind to start a very basic studio. Just trying to give you some background to prove I'm not some idiot who has no idea what he's doing walking into this situation.

    Currently, my band pays for a practice space in Oakland, CA, and my share for that space is 60$. I just noticed today, that the space next door is available for 350$ a month. So for 410$ a month, I could have both spaces, use one as a live room, the other as a control room.
    Currently I have enough gear to suit all the basic needs of any stupid teenager wanting to make a record, or any serious musician wanting to make something real. I have an 8 input computer interface. Pro Tools (For the rock bands, or folk, or whatever.), and FL Studio (For the hip hoppers and the electronicers). I have enough mics to mic up a full drumset (Limited to 8 of course), an sm58 for vocals. I have a drumset, ampeg bass stack, and marshall guitar stack at my disposal. In my parents garage, my brother had built an isolation booth, which my parents would be happy to be rid of if I moved it to the new place. A very zippy computer (Only a core 2 duo, but upgrading to core i7 soon).

    So my running costs every month would be 410$ plus some renters insurance. I'm thinking I would just have a trial run type thing, where I sign a lease for 3 months, front the cash, and then just try my damndest to make it work, and if it didn't work, worst case scenario I'm out 1,200$ knowing that I tried.

    Now for the part I'm not so sure about. Would I need to get a business license for something like this? What are the risks involved if I don't get one? Would I have to charge tax? How much should I charge? Currently I make about 15$ an hour at my job, so I would be happy to be making as little as 15$ an hour. I've heard figures thrown around here upwards of 40$ an hour charged! I know a question like this would be respective to my general area though, and it would be hard to say, I'm just looking for a general idea.
    I was even thinking of some alternate business ideas. Like, offer to do some groups for free if I thought they were good enough to make any money, and take a cut of their record sales. Or like a bulk package deal where I can record, mix, and master for a discounted rate. Or even let them use my beats for free if they book studio time. How many people have tried this? Or am I just being unrealistic, and I would be lucky if I broke even? I know the music industry is crumbling beneath our feet, but I know a market is still there! Albeit much smaller.

    Let me know your thoughts please!
  2. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    Sep 19, 2003
    Well 2 important things, firstly, just speak to your local tax office about tax and licenses. I wouldn't have thought you'd need a license if there is no element of performance, serving alcohol, or interface with the 'general public' - as opposed to customers paying you by the hour for the service you provide. Your local TO will be very helpful, and its best just to speak to them and get the gen way before you have the building. That way if you find there's a problem you're not committed and you can choose what, if any, risk you are prepared to take.

    Secondly your market. This is the be-all and end-all. You say you know a market is there. Its something I haven't really done as I opened as a rehearsal studio with a recording sideline, but as I build that up I know I need to get out there and speak to bands to progress. So do you. Go and speak to people. Find out what they would require, nobody will turn down a free consultation, head to gigs, buy them a drink, and you'll start to get a feel and maybe even some tentative bookings for a few months down the line.

    You'd make more money if you just rented a flat to somebody as bands don't seem to see the value of floor space plus the added value of the recording equipment for its true value, and the dwindling market and increased competition from those already committed to monthly rents and wage bills doesn't help. BUt thats not the point, this is something you want and thats the most important thing in this life, by god, make yourself happy! Just make sure you have a small income stream from something - even if its renting the live room out for rehearsals in downtime, fixing amps, e-mastering or mixing, whatever you can do to add value and other supplementary streams to make sure that in the quiet times, summer generally and across Xmas, that you aren't in despair.....
  3. BobRogers

    BobRogers Distinguished Member

    Apr 4, 2006
    Blacksburg, VA
    You really need to write a realistic business plan. The fact that you are thinking of the rent as $410 per month (making the other band members splitting the cost of room #1 your (unpaid?) partners) shows me you have not thought this through carefully. Do you really know the market? The bands, the live venues, the other studios? We're talking Oakland, CA here. You're in the middle of a huge, rich metropolitan area. Do you have a good estimate on how many people have better equipment than you in their basement? There must be hundreds (thousands?) with in twenty miles of Oakland.

    Try the Small Business Administration, your bank, local community colleges to see if there is a course on writing a business plan. (You can look at books or on the web, but you are need someone who can read it and give you a reality check.)

    I'm not saying this is an impossible idea. But it isn't something that will come off without a lot of wrok and planning.
  4. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Moderator Resource Member

    Mar 20, 2008
    currently Billings
    An 8 channel interface is not sufficient to open a recording studio IMO.

    +1 on writing a complete business plan. This is the single most important thing you can do for yourself. Those that don't have a plan usually don't have a business for long.
  5. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Dec 12, 2001
    Oberlin, OH
    Home Page:
    There are lots of similar threads on this specific question maybe a simple search will help answer some of your questions. FWIW

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